New research shows public “still confused” about recycling

Brand new research conducted by YouGov found that only 8% of Brits strongly believe that recycling labelling on products is clear and that only 12% of them trust this recycling labelling on products.

With over a third of consumer’s admitting that recycling confuses them in general, UK resource management company, Veolia, is calling the industry to action.

Veolia says public confusion and “distrust of recycling labelling” leads to lower rates and that despite recycling is a “constant environmental commitment”, YouGov found that when out and about nearly half of the public find information on this unclear.

A huge disparity between habits when at home, in the office and being out was uncovered by the research.

The nation is ready: people are onboard with recycling. To reach our targets, the UK needs standardisation in the initial stage of the chain

It shows the public are nearly 50% more likely to always recycle at home compared to when out and almost twice as likely to always recycle at home than at work.

This leaves a huge amount of materials going to waste, Veolia says.
Key results

  • 66% of people have said it has become easier to recycle in the last 5 years.
  • The older you are, the more likely you are to always recycle either at home, at work or while out and about.
  • 91% of people agreed that recycling is indeed ‘worth it’, in terms of time and energy output.

Richard Kirkman, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of UK and Ireland, said: “How can we expect people to recycle if they don’t trust the information presented to them? The nation is ready: people are onboard with recycling. To reach our targets, the UK needs standardisation in the initial stage of the chain.

“There is an answer: binary labelling which clearly states if it can or can’t be recycled. This paired with signage and the consistency in guidelines to accommodate all locations is fundamental to help people separate their products correctly.

“These fundamental changes will shake up the system, making the move towards a circular economy and resuscitating the environment.”

Labelling issues

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs aims to tackle these labelling issues with their Resources and Waste Strategy coming to fruition throughout the course of the year.

This strategy aims to harmonise recycling labelling, making it clearer to consumers, in turn this should increase recycling habits.

Jane Bevis, Chair OPRL (On Pack Recycling Label), said: “Consumers tell us that clear, consistent advice is essential – they want to do the right thing and they want recycling labels on packaging to give practical information they can trust.

“That’s why we’ve redesigned our labels to give a simple ‘Recycle’ or ‘Don’t Recycle’ message, summarising the evidence on what councils collect, what MRFs can sort, what gets re-processed and what gets turned into new packaging or products.

Our research found that the most common place for people to look to for recycling information is on the bins themselves

“It’s time for a single mandatory labelling system that consumers know they can rely on.”

Veolia aims to “inject fresh perspective” into these recycling situations to revolutionise the UK’s waste disposal tendencies, meet Defra’s July 2020 targets and “regenerate the environment”.

“Our research found that the most common place for people to look to for recycling information is on the bins themselves,” the company said.

“Veolia is encouraging the pairing of clearer signage across locations with consistent labelling to ensure a reduction in the imbalance of recycling in the workplace, when out and when at home.

“In the meantime it is important for people to use their local council websites to ensure they are recycling the correct materials.”

Veolia’s recycling top tips

  • Check with your local council to find out your specified recycling rules.
  • Leave your lids on jars – don’t let them fall through the cracks at recycling facilities.
  • Learn which products go in which box – with contracts changing and new policy, boxes can switch and swap to confuse people.
  • Cutlery and cookware must be brought to your local Veolia Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and we will process them for you.
  • Don’t put your electronics in your household recycling – take the batteries out and bring them to our HWRCs.

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